Fresh Idea: The Unlikely Inspiration Behind Food-Saver FreshPaper Kavita Shukla spoke at the Women in the World Summit today about finding inspiration in uncommon places.

By Amy S. Choi

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Yupi

By the time she was 17 years old, Kavita Shukla held multiple patents. Today, she is the 27-year-old CEO of Fenugreen and inventor of its core product FreshPaper, a technology that aims to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer. Inspiration struck in an unlikely place: a tooth-brushing accident while visiting her grandmother in India, an experience that has shaped her core business philosophy.

No idea is too simple, Shukla said today at the Women in the World Summit, where she was honored as a "mother of invention." The annual conference in New York is hosted by Newsweek and the Daily Beast and gathers some 2,500 attendees, including A-listers like Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Shukla shared her startup success story and lessons for other aspiring inventors.

At 13, Shukla accidentally drank the water while brushing her teeth at her grandmother's home in India -- a recipe for disaster in a country with notoriously unsafe tap water. As a remedy, her grandmother mixed up a batch of herbs and spices. She didn't get sick. When she returned home to the U.S., Shukla started experimenting with those same spices as part of a middle-school science project and discovered the combination was a potent inhibitor for bacterial growth.

A few years later, when she was a senior in high school, FreshPaper was born. It is a simple sheet of paper lauded as a "dryer sheet" for produce. Put a piece of FreshPaper where you store your fruit and vegetables, and they will stay fresh up to four times longer, the company promises.

Last year, Shukla launched FreshPaper in a local farmers market in Boston. It rapidly gained attention through word of mouth and is now sold in 35 countries. While she initially imagined that the paper would be most useful in the developing world, as 1.6 billion people globally live without proper refrigeration, the product is increasingly popular in the U.S. and recently became available at Whole Foods.

"I didn't realize [food spoilage] was a big issue in the U.S.," said Shukla. "I was really amazed by the response. People said things like, 'FreshPaper makes it possible for me to eat healthier and for me to afford fresh healthy fruits and vegetables.' Now, we actually donate FreshPaper to local food banks."

The next major step is to engage with farmers, both in the U.S. and in the developing world. If she could get FreshPaper in their hands, Shukla believes they could stop a great deal of food spoilage at the source and create more access to healthy food for people around the world. Fenugreen has already worked with farmers in Malawi and Haiti and hopes to expand.

Shukla offered these three tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Simplicity is valuable.
"FreshPaper is powerful because it's so simple," Shukla said. "Simple ideas are the ones that have the power to change things because they can be used by everyone, everywhere around the world."

A good idea doesn't have to be trendy.
"Believe in your idea," said Shukla. The next big thing doesn't need to be a fancy mobile technology or app. You never know how your idea will connect with others until you test it out.

Inspiration is everywhere.
"I often think [of] what would have happened if I hadn't drank my grandma's mixture, or dismissed it," Shukla said. Don't be afraid to play and experiment. Her grandmother's potion may as well have been magic, she said.

Amy S. Choi is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her work has appeared in BusinessWeek, Women’s Wear Daily and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications. She is currently working on a book about her travels through the developing world

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Marketing

10 Expert Insights for the Optimal (and Most Effective) PR Budget in 2024

The age-old question "How much should a company spend on PR?" echoes through boardrooms, with organizations seeking a magic formula for budget allocation. Here are 10 things you need to consider.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

A Former Disney Star Just Launched a Space Startup With $6.3 Million in Seed Funding. Here's Why She Did It.

Bridgit Mendler co-founded Northwood Space to bring data from space reliably down to Earth.

Fundraising

Working Remote? These Are the Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

As more and more businesses go remote, these are ways to be more effective and efficient on conference calls.

Growing a Business

The Best Way to Run a Business Meeting

All too often, meetings run longer than they should and fail to keep attendees engaged. Here's how to run a meeting the right way.

Living

Incorporating This Simple Activity Into Your Daily Routine Can Boost Your Productivity, Creativity and Business

This simple yet profound activity has transformed not just my health, but the way I do business. Here's how.